‘Man of La Mancha’ review
Time Out says
Kelsey Grammer stiffly soldiers on through this hopelessly dated ’60s musical
Kelsey Grammer decks himself out in a suit of armour and a pair of water-vole-sized false eyebrows for this valiant but ramshackle attempt to resurrect a half-forgotten 1965 Broadway musical. He stars in ‘Man of La Mancha’ as both legendary Spanish author Cervantes and his most famous creation, Don Quixote, the bumbling wannabe knight who lives in his own chivalric fantasy land.
Alas and alack, Grammer doesn’t quite skewer the comedy. He moves stiffly (perhaps afraid that one of those eyebrows will scurry off) through this show’s panoply of comic misunderstandings and makes broadly accurate but oddly blank-faced work of the musical’s only enduring hit song ‘The Impossible Dream’, which is a highlight in Mitch Leigh’s atmospheric but not always memorable score of Spanish pastiches. It’s a song that sums up the show’s more serious theme, the idea of longing for goodness and nobility in a corrupt world. Book writer Dale Wasserman heightens these ideas by giving Cervantes’s story a kind of Brechtian framing device, where the author is trapped in a purgatorial jail awaiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition. Director Lonny Price has half-heartedly updated these scenes to the present day, with the huddled masses of fellow prisoners vaguely suggestive of refugees. But James Noone’s old-school set design doesn’t make a convincing arena for contemporary parallels: it’s all naffly crumbling plaster with a flight of metal steps that set the whole confection a-wobble every time they’re lowered.
The show’s central love story feels just as creaky. Wasserman steams through or leaves out the funniest bits of ‘Don Quixote’ (the part where he attacks a windmill lasts all of a minute) in favour of a sappy emphasis on his love for Dulcinea, a ‘tavern wench’ (trust me, there’s no other way of describing her) who can’t go five seconds without being lustily, theatrically pawed by the ale-swigging lads around her. Clearly, she prefers the hands-off but delusional attentions of an ageing lunatic, but that doesn’t turn her tolerance for his romantic ramblings into the heartwarming bond that this show seems to see it as.
Sharing the role with Cassidy Janson, Danielle de Niese is a lively, fine-voiced presence as Dulcinea, bringing an energy that’s otherwise lacking from this dour production – even if it’s grim to see it play out in a danced rape scene that probably wasn’t okay in the ’60s and certainly isn’t now.
‘Man of La Mancha’ sets pure-hearted idealism against the cruelty of the degenerate modern world, in a way that probably struck more of a chord with audiences struggling with the rapid social changes of its ’60s heyday. Producers Michael Linnit and Michael Grade don’t make a convincing case for reviving it: a mismatched celebrity cast and a by-numbers production mean that contemporary relevance, like chivalry, really is an impossible dream.
Users say (8)
Average User Rating
4.7 / 5
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Don't listen to the so-called critics... yes, it is not perfect, but what a great evening - especially if you can get a £25 ticket that would be extraordinary value... like the others here, you will be glad you did (and scratching your head how anyone could give it only 2 out of 5)
This show was amazing from start to finish. A standing ovation at the end ! I am so pleased we didn't let the critiques and the negative reviews stop us going. The whole cast and Orchestra, (don;t forget those amazing musicians, even though you may not see them), as well as being in a most beautiful theatre was very special to us. It was very captivating and so lovely to hear such different voices, ah! the padre ! wow. Please go and watch this show.
This was unbelievably good! I must admit the beginning took a while to get into, but after the first 10 mins you are hooked into the play.
Both my partner and I cried towards the ending as it just took us into the emotional whirl that we did not expect. It was brilliant and worth the watch. The whole cast did it justice! Kelsey Grammer & Peter Polycarpou had a good chemistry. And credit to 'The Duke' and 'Padre,' fantastic voices! - Nicholas Lyndhurst needs to be more of a meanie for 'The Gov.'
Please give this a watch, it really is worth it.
The critics have a lot to answer for - it should be a sellout and they should be ashamed of the lazy bandwagon they gave all jumped on. We nearly didn’t go, but decided to travel down from Yorkshire despite the reviews. It was superbly good - beautifully scored and well played by the orchestra, wonderfully choreographed, and subtly and elegantly performed by a a great cast. They deserved their standing ovation at this afternoon’s performance.
Absolutely Amazing!!! Kelsey Grammer was wonderful, a genuine mesmerising Theatre Performance. Go and see it!
Saw it tonight and LOVED it. It took a wee while to warm up - maybe they need to review the first 10 mins, but it was great- and no mean feat to engross a half-empty hall caused, of course, by reviews like that above. I feel we maybe saw different shows! No show is perfect, and by definition things could always have been done differently, but I liked the juxtaposition, and the singing, and the impossible dream seems more relevant now than even in the 60s and I lived through that too. I might have agreed with the reviewer had she compared today with the 30s, but a lot of the text seemed to directly reference the pickle we're in, globally. Please go and see it. And a bonus - rubbish reviews have put the prices down. Day tickets from £25!!!! Go and see it now!